AMC’s zombie mega hit The Walking Dead has had its fair share of ups and downs but the biggest one of all is coming back to bite the network in the ass.
In 2010, when the series was in production, AMC brought on acclaimed writer/director Frank Darabont to help run the highly anticipated adaptation of the cult graphic novel into the world of television. Darabont was responsible for The Shawshank Redemption and even had some solid horror credentials with The Mist under his belt. Things seemed to be perfect for the burgeoning series and they were, The Walking Dead‘s first season was a huge success.
Then surprisingly AMC cut Darabont from the show and slimmed down its budget… that’s where things start to get ugly. Darabont filed a lawsuit against the Network and we’re finally getting a peek inside to see some of the nasty details leveled by the ex-showrunner.
In an unsealed deposition released by The Hollywood Reporter, Darabont claims that AMC execs trimmed the show’s budget on short notice and fired Darabont while reducing his profit share:
Darabont says, “I remember Joel Stillerman [president of original programming and development for AMC], in a meeting in my office, when we were all discussing the issues of the upcoming season, we said to him, ‘Surely that the success of the show, which, by the way, you guys are bragging about because we keep getting e-mails saying, ‘Hey, we’re breaking viewership records in 120 countries around the world by hundreds of percent, in some countries by over 1,000%,’ at the same time we’re hearing how successful the show is for you, you’re telling us that this, this budget issue is not going to budge at all. And he said, ‘The success of the show has no bearing on this discussion,’ in a rather icy manner.”
According to Darabont, AMC cut the budget “from 3.4 to 3,” referring to the millions it takes to produce episodes of Walking Dead.
“That was bad enough, but then they dropped the bomb on us that, oh by the way, they’re keeping the tax credit,” he testified. “They’re going to pocket the tax credit. So, between the two you’ve got a full 25% cut across the board.”
They received that tax credit for filming the show in Georgia, which yielded brutal conditions at times and Darabont also addressed why those funds should have went to production, “The fact that we couldn’t then take that tax credit and put it on the screen or alleviate shooting conditions to any degree, I thought that was adding insult to injury.”
The crew had to regularly put up with intense heat and as is also extremely common in the south, a ton of insects, all while the executives were barely present, according to Darabont they were, “jumping back in their car and flying back to their air conditioned office in New York. I had a tremendous lack of respect for them.”
One interesting aspect comes from Glen Mazzara, who is the successor to Darabont and also gave a deposition stating that Darabont was a good show runner but plans for the second season that would have been a “show killer”.
AMC released a statement about the lawsuit to EW:
“Frank Darabont has made it clear that he has strong opinions about AMC and the events that led to his departure from The Walking Dead. The reality is that he has been paid millions of dollars under the terms of his contract, which we honored, and we will continue to vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”
The first season of The Walking Dead is its strongest and it would have been fascinating to see where Darabont would have taken the series, but the show has still managed to crank out some amazing episodes, especially in season 2. It will be interesting to see how this lawsuit unfolds and if it’ll have any effect on the series as a whole.